By Grace Bennett
In the fall, I was invited to experience an all morning health and wellness retreat inside a beautiful Chappaqua home. The offer was courtesy of Paula Barbag, owner of “Consulting for a Cause,” which “provides organizational development consulting services to assist non profit organizations to strengthen their impact.” In other words, Paula’s team helps out non profits by providing extra services that enhance employee health and also meet other organizational goals. I do think it’s a brilliant concept and you can learn more about it by visiting consultingforacause.com
It happens the retreat took place the morning after Consulting for a Cause was awarded a Chamber Champs award for Best New Business–the first time award ceremony sponsored by the Chappaqua Millwood Chamber of Commerce took place just the night before at Crabtree’s Kittle House.
Consulting for a Cause launched a “Behavioral Health and Wellness Program” for non profits which Paula said helped shape her idea for a similar retreat she felt would benefit local moms too…like yours truly–which brings me to the workshop itself. After a brief introduction to the program, we were divided into four, small rotating groups to visit with individual workshop leaders.
Mindfulness and Meditation
My group of moms (given the heavy women’s health theme throughout, it was all moms!) took off first to meet with Jodi Baretz, LCSW, HHC, a psychotherapist and certified health coach, for insights into mindfulness and meditation. Jodi has been embarking on eight weeks of studying the teachings of Jon Kabat Zinn, one of this country’s most eminent experts on mindfulness. Mindfulness, Jodi explained, is “an awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose to how the experience unfolds in a non judgmental way.” Toward that end, Jodi explained the reasoning behind meditation, pointing out that our “monkey minds” are possessed of thoughts that go from one to the next, “and that it is very difficult to quiet the mind and be still….the benefit will be living in the moment.”
She led the group through a meditation that heavily focused on “coming back to the breath.” She described it as “a process of clearing and steadying the mind that is natural and needs no determined effort.” Anyone interested in joining a mindfulness meditation and stress reduction group with Jodi can contact her: email@example.com
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines and More
Next our group visited with Dr. Corinne Menn, a Chappaqua-based certified gynecologist, and herself a cancer survivor. She expressed concern about the mixed messages women receive about breast cancer screening. She does support recommendations of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology and The American Cancer Society which include mammograms annually starting at age 40; an ultrasound in conjunction with a mammogram for high risk patients (such as those who are who perimenopausal, have ﬁbrocystic breasts, or have a palpable mass) and an MRI for high risk patients too.
In addition, Dr. Menn urges that a comprehensive family history be taken to potentially identify red ﬂags that would alert the doctor to a patient at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. At risk patients should be offered BRCA genetic testing. The test is a simple saliva sample and most insurance companies cover it. Family history for uterine, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancer should be explored as well, since these cancers can be linked to BRCA and other genetic mutations. All women deemed high risk, including those who are negative for the BRCA mutation, beneﬁt from increased surveillance, nutrition and lifestyle counseling. Some patients may be candidates for prophylactic medication to reduce their risk as well.
Screening guidelines need to be personalized for each patient and women should be their own health advocates by staying informed, emphasized Dr. Menn. “In my practice, I do BRCA testing and I utilize a high risk prevention program to follow and care for my patients at risk for breast, ovarian cancer and other cancers.” For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Menn, call 238-0350.
Disease Preventing Nutrition Advice
The session that followed was with Stefanie Schwartz…arguably one of Chappaqua’s most popular nutritional consultants in town. Stefanie proved to be an information powerhouse for every question that came up.
Over the course of the workshop, she highlighted key suggestions surrounding best diets for anti-inflammation, breast cancer prevention, and for weight loss. She noted that inflammation is at the heart of most disease states, so keeping a diet that reduces inflammation in the body is critical for long term health, and for disease prevention, from cancer to heart disease and all autoimmune diseases.
White refined carbohydrates (pasta, bagels, bread, potatoes, rice, crackers), sugar and red meat are three of the most inflammatory foods in the diet. And the foods that reduce inflammation in the diet are: blueberries, walnuts, salmon, sardines, ground flax meal, chia seeds, tart cherry juice, cinnamon, turmeric, and curry powder. “Incorporating these foods into ones diet on a regular basis is an incredible way to prevent disease.”
As far as breast cancer prevention goes, being overweight, and drinking alcohol are clear risks. Also: If you have had or are at high risk for estrogen dependent breast cancer, it’s probably best if you stay away from different soy based foods (protein powders, tofu, edamame).
Great choices for preventive efforts: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, garlic, apple skin, walnuts, salmon, ground flax meal, parsley, celery, and blueberries.
Weight loss is very individualized, Stefanie said. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. For additional info and a private consultation, call 238-6415.
Yoga for Breast Health too!
To enhance an already heightened sense of well being, we enjoyed a wonderful session of yoga with Susan Kullman, the owner of the new Intentional Wellness and Yoga Center in Katonah. intentionalwellnessandyogacenter.com
“During the yoga portion of the wellness retreat I was able to convey the importance of balancing out the normal “high momentum” daily experience,” said Susan, who had all of us performing poses that opened up our hips and spines. “I focus on the psoas muscle group of the body (part of the hip flexors),” she explained.
“It can greatly affect digestion, breathing, and an overall feeling of safety in the body. The condition of the psoas is one of the determining factors in how grounded we feel in our body.” In addition, Susan led us in opening up our armpits, to help target all our different lymph glands which are responsible for keeping our breasts healthy.
Well, all this talk and activity inspired a solid appetite. I was delighted that a healthy and delicious home cooked lunch immediately followed and allowed for more conversation amongst ourselves. I went home having made a couple new friends and feeling relaxed and healthfully sated.
Grace Bennett is Publisher and Editor of Inside Chappaqua Magazine.